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Shared Business Operations in the East

[photo:] Forest Products LaboratorySince 2012, three of the four Forest Service administrative units in the East have shared common business operations functions. A single assistant director, located in Madison, WI, leads the acquisition management, civil rights, and engineering staffs that serve the Forest Products Laboratory, Northern Research Station, and Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry. Budget, planning, and applications for the Northern Research Station and the Forest Products Laboratory are headed by a second assistant director, located in Newtown Square, PA.  With the increasing use of agency-wide business support systems, the need for independent support staff for each unit has greatly diminished.  The decision to move to this consolidated organizational structure flowed from many years of successful sharing of business operations functions between the Northeastern Area and the former Northeastern Research Station.


The investment in this internal Forest Service partnership has principally been leadership commitment to explore options and implement those that are most promising and staff time and energy to rethink their processes and work relationships while continuing to handle routine business.

Partnership Established           
Number of positions eliminated or not filled as a result of this partnership:                     


Estimated cost savings:
more than $300,000 annually



Full results will be realized the longer this shared arrangement is in place.  To date, this partnership has:

  • Reduced the number of executive team positions needed for business operations and budgeting from 6 to 2.
  • Provided the depth of staffing in acquisition management to fill an acting program leader position from within the staff, following retirement of the previous program lead.
  • Given the Forest Products Laboratory access to a full-time, experienced civil rights director.
  • Opened exploration of other potential areas for shared programing.


This partnership demonstrates how the Forest Service of the future may be structured.  The lessons learned here illustrate likely areas of cost savings and efficiency for other Forest Service units.

Lessons Learned

The opportunities for sharing services are generally broader than anticipated.  However, implementation needs to proceed gradually to enlist employee support.

[photo:]  Michael  T. Rains, Acting Director FPL; Director, Northern Research Station. <br clear= “By banding together, sharing resources, and avoiding duplication, our respective units are each better positioned to channel resources into mission areas benefitting forests, jobs and people’s lives.”
--Michael T. Rains, Former Director , Forest Products Laboratory and Former Director, Northern Research Station (retired).

Partner Organizations

Last Modified: July 31, 2019